Vidalia football purchases new equipment through fundraising

Published 1:27 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vidalia High School football player Tony Tolliver finishes a set of squats using the new equipment in the weight room on Tuesday in Vidalia. Nicole Hester/Natchez Democrat

Vidalia High School football player Tony Tolliver finishes a set of squats using the new equipment in the weight room on Tuesday in Vidalia. Nicole Hester/Natchez Democrat

VIDALIA — If Christmas came early for Vidalia High School football, it was a gift the team had to work for.

Approximately three weeks ago, the Vikings stocked their field house with two brand new power lifting racks, painted with Vikings blue and red.

The team bought the two racks with fundraiser money the Vikings players compiled during the season. The fundraisers included selling yard signs and auctioning off a barbeque grill.

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“They’re not cheap so it took a while to raise the money to get them,” Vidalia football coach Jeff Hancock said.

Hancock said both half racks — in addition to the platforms, benches, bars and bumper plates — cost approximately $7,500, and the team raised all of the funds.

During his weight training class — seventh hour or the final class period — players rotate in groups of four during squat and leg-strength exercises.

Hancock said, ideally, the team wants to purchase a few more racks in the long term — players would get more sets in if they could split up into pairs instead of groups of four — but anything is an improvement.

Freshman Tony Tolliver said he started as a linebacker for the Vikings at the beginning of last season. Tolliver said Hancock moved him to safety, mid-season, because his frame was too small for linebacker. After he bulked up a little —without traditional weights — Tolliver moved back to linebacker.

“Before this, I mostly did push ups,” Tolliver said. “At home I have six tires I can pull. I got a footwork latter and some cones.”

Now, Tolliver said he tries to get into the weight room to put in work with the new equipment whenever he isn’t playing baseball. Tolliver said he and his teammates might have realized they were smaller than most teams, but they weren’t preoccupied with sizing up teams during games.

“I knew we were smaller but I never really thought about it,” he said.

Hancock is entering his third season at Vidalia. He said, before the new racks arrived, he conditioned the team with body weight workouts and agility drills. There were free weights and benches in the weight room for the team to lift with, but it wasn’t much to go around.

Hancock said there has hardly been any actual weight lifting in past seasons — he was trying to teach his squad, mostly freshmen and sophomores, how to lift safely and effectively. Now, by the time his freshmen are seniors, they will have had the benefits of professional fitness equipment throughout their high school careers.

“Ultimately, all you need are (the power racks),” Hancock said. “You can do everything you need on those.”

Now Hancock said most of his young squad has bought into offseason conditioning and Hancock labels it as a priority for his program. He values strength at every position — his kickers are some of the strongest players on the team.

Hancock also said the new toys have gotten his players more enthusiastic about the time they spend in the weight room.

“When they see something new and shiny, everybody wants to use it,” Hancock said.

Hancock said girls basketball and baseball teams have used the weight roomnow and then, but his football squad has gotten the most use out of the new weights.

Hancock’s resume is a laundry list of nine colleges, and he said even the facilities at the colleges he’s coached varied. After his first season at Vidalia, when he used fundraisers to upgrade the team’s helmets and pads, strength equipment was his priority.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Hancock said. “I knew that there would be a pretty serious rebuilding project, coming from college … you assume some things will already be in place when you get here.”